We’re going to start talking about genres and working through that amazing list known as the BOSAC codes that makes our heads swirl. I thought about starting that today but I’ve had some serious conversations this week with friends and bloggers about The Before Now and After Then and the love story.
Mainly – is quick, young love like what is portrayed in the book reality?
When we first read the manuscript, my main concern was this same question. Did Peter Monn write this book with too quick of a story that was unbelievable? To 32 year old me the answer was, “Well, yeah, who falls in love and has their heart broken in a week?” I sat down and thought about Danny, the main character, pretty heavily and suddenly I found myself in 15 year old me’s shoes.
It was the summer of 1997 and it was just a few weeks before my Sophmore year of High School was about to start. I was a Girl Scout (don’t knock it if you didn’t try it or weren’t a part of our awesome group of girls) and our fearless leaders made the decision to cart all of us north to an international co-ed jamboree in Michigan. Yes, international and co-ed, a whole week in the woods of northern Michigan with beautiful boys. We were all pretty innocent and well behaved, over achieving girls, our parents trusted us, and off we went.
Within minutes of arriving in the camp and driving to our site located at the very back of the lake, we were surrounded. We shared our particular campsite with a group of boy scouts from Mexico, and we quickly found out that out of over 600 campers, only 50 of us were girls…and only 20 of us were from the states. All of the hormonal boys wanted to meet some American girls. It was amazing, we didn’t have to set up our tents, light our fires, cook our food, we honestly didn’t do a single thing that first night as all of the boys in camp clambered over themselves to get our attention.
By the end of the night, we all had our crushes and hung out over our flashlights in our tents discussing who was the cutest. Some of my friends crushed on some of the cute Mexican boys, some of them found infatuation with the local Michigan boys, and four of us fell head over heels for the mysterious group of boys with the bright red scarfs around their neck clasped by zebra skin rings and hailing from Zimbabwe.
Our camp was the most remote, we always preferred the backwoods camps, and we would have to canoe across the lake or walk through a densely wooded path and over a simple wooden plank bridge over the swampier areas to get back to camp. Every morning, some of us would be escorted by their Mexican gentleman, canoed over by their Michigan lads, or met at the mouth of the trail by our exotic Zimbabwe pals.
The night we all still laugh about was the last night of camp. It was my 15th birthday, I was wearing wide legged skater jeans and a Curious George ringer t-shirt. We had a big fireside talent show where all of the international people performed skits about their country and we cuddled in the chilly air of the dirt and log amphitheater. Our leaders gave us a bit of a chaperone reprieve and we walked innocently, hand in hand, and giddy back towards our camp.
My birthday falls around the time of the Leonid Meteor Shower every year, and as it was right on that date in 1997, we used the excuse that we wanted to work on our Astronomy badge. A group of 20 of us headed down to the plank wood foot bridge and sat under the stars watching the shower….I mean, we all got our first kiss that night and saw the shooting stars behind our closed eyes as our hormones took over. At one point, our troop leaders walked through and jokingly yelled, “Hand check!” as we all jumped to our feet and threw our hands in the air. We have never been able to live that moment down and we still laugh about it almost every time our paths cross.
The next day, we all met up for a group photo. We exchanged bits and bobs with our boys from the week, exchanged addresses, watched them pack our camp and load up our cars for us (okay, I did say they spoiled us), and gave them one last hug.
Our troop leaders had the most miserable drive back to Indianapolis of their life, two cars full of sobbing, heartbroken, depressed young girls.
I stayed in contact with my first kiss through snail mail for a few years, and we even called the boys one year for one of our Christmas presents.
We dropped out of touch briefly but then the wonder of social media arrived and we all found each other on Facebook. I’m still in touch with my first kiss, some of his friends, and some of the other people from that week. My first kiss now lives in London, another boy moved to South Africa, yet another still lives in Zimbabwe and owns a game hunting reserve as one of the few farmers not impacted when the President redistributed the land.
I thought of this story while looking through MPOM’s Facebook photos and laughing. It truly brought so many great memories to mind and I was absolutely boy crazy to the point that I was ready to buy a ticket to Zimbabwe my Senior year with my graduation reserve instead of backpacking through Europe.
When I looked back, I realized that Danny’s story is not impractical. At 15, 16, 17 years old, we fall in love quick, we fall in love hard, and we fall with our entire body to the point it hurts. I see Danny as that reflection of youthful innocence that is maybe missing in this fast moving era of Gossip Girl, Sex & The City, and social media. I can honestly say that had Danny been written as my current 32 year old mindset that wound up a little jaded and over the thought of love, I wouldn’t have believed it. Danny is so pure, so strikingly lost that for him to do anything except fall completely head over heels and madly in love with Rusty would have not been true to his character and his search for himself.
Even for adults, is it that crazy to believe in quick and honest love? Maybe as we get jaded and find ourselves in and out of relationships or fighting hard times but if you return to your first love, or even your first crush, I think you’ll find that Danny’s story isn’t so hard to believe after all.
Afterall, love feels the same at fifteen as it does at forty.